Friday, April 21, 2017

In honor of the 28th anniversary of GameBoy's Japanese release, here are a handful of my all-time favorite GB games

A little birdie (OK, so it was this NeoGAF thread) told me this morning that the Nintendo GameBoy launched in Japan 28 years ago today.

If math isn't your forte, that means the Japanese GameBoy was released all the way back on April 21, 1989.

Given my love for Nintendo's first portable game system (see my "Year of the GameBoy" posts for a taste of how I feel about this handheld), I thought I'd publish a post that discusses some of my favorite GameBoy titles in honor of today's milestone.

Astro Rabby--This choice is sure to raise a few eyebrows, as I know folks who think it's a bit of a turd. Still, I really enjoy playing it--flaws (like its hair-pullingly frustrating bonus levels) and all. Some of that enjoyment is derived from the uniqueness of Astro Rabby's gameplay--which puts you in the paws of a robotic rabbit that hops through space via a top-down, auto-scrolling stages in search of "power-up parts"--I have to say, although I also have to say it's simply a lot fun to soar through this 1990 release's levels while its peppy soundtrack plays in the background. For more on why I like this game so much, read my Astro Rabby review. Also, see my "Year of the GameBoy" post about it for photos of its box, cartridge and instruction manual.

Balloon Kid--By now, it should be clear that I not only love this Balloon Fight follow-up (it's actually known as Balloon Fight GB in Japan), but that I've loved it since it was first released in North America 27 years ago. After all, I recently published a post that explained why Balloon Kid helped shape my taste in video games. It's far from perfect, of course--the scrolling is choppy and there are only eight stages to complete--but it's such a nice change of pace from the typical platforming fodder that fills the GameBoy's library that its imperfections are barely worth mentioning. To learn more about this game's pros and cons, check out my Balloon Kid review.

Bitamina Oukoku Monogatari--True story: not only did I not play this Namco-made RPG back when it first hit store shelves in my neck of the woods (as Great Greed), but I wasn't even aware of its existence at that time. Now that I've played through a good chunk of it (you can read some of my thoughts on the experience in these old posts), I'd actually go so far as to call Bitamina Oukoku Monogatari one of my favorite role-playing games from that era. It's beyond antiquated, and the text in the North American version (I can't comment on the text in the Japanese original) is so stilted and simple it's often difficult to decipher what's being said, but its breezy, one-on-one battles are such a blast and its soundtrack is so blissful that these missteps are easy to overlook.

Burning Paper--How this game has flown under the radar for so long--it first hit Japanese store shelves in early 1993--is beyond me. I guess its pedigree (for lack of a better word) could have something to do with it. A company called Pixel developed Burning Paper, while LOZC G. Amusements published it--and neither had even slightly pinged my radar before I first became aware of this game. Regardless, I think it deserves a spot on every write-up ever published about GameBoy games you need to play thanks to its arcade-y, Patchwork Heroes-esque action and its shimmering background music. Also worth noting: Burning Paper's beautiful packaging.

Donkey Kong--I have to imagine a lot of GameBoy owners passed on buying and playing this title back in the day because they assumed it was just a black-and-white port of Nintendo's classic quarter-muncher of the same name. That describes the cart's first few levels, but after that this portable entry in the Donkey Kong series reveals its true colors as a puzzler-platformer of nearly unrivaled quality. Although I'd of course recommend picking up a physical copy of Donkey Kong for GameBoy (due in part to its pretty packaging) as a result, a digital copy (available via the 3DS eShop) will only set you back $3.99 at the moment, so go that route if you're no longer in the market for actual GB carts.

Osawagase! Penguin Boy--Much like Burning Paper, above, this Natsume-developed title features gameplay that appears to have been inspired by Qix. Don't worry if you find that Taito product to be a bore; Osawagase! Penguin Boy (Amazing Penguin outside of Japan) is a far zippier affair. It's also far cuter, thanks to the beret-wearing penguin that serves as its protagonist. In the end, if you're looking for a GameBoy cartridge that'll entertain you whenever you've got a couple of free minutes, or if you're any kind of Pac-Man or Pengo fan (both of are represented here, along with the aforementioned Qix), you'll want to give Osawagase! Penguin Boy a try as soon as you're able.

Painter Momopie--Speaking of Pac-Man, this Sigma Entertainment effort easily could be described as a clone of that world-conquering Namco classic. In fact, I did just that in a recent post about my five favorite Pac-Man clones. Painter Momopie sets itself apart from everybody's favorite dot-chomper, however, by basically inverting its predecessor's gameplay (your goal is to fill each screen--with paint--rather than empty them) and by being set in what looks to be a witch's home or academy. (Do you know Japanese? You'd help me immensely if you checked out the first page of the Painter Momopie instruction manual and then educated me on its backstory.) Curious to learn more about this Japan-only release from 1990? Read my Painter Momopie review. Also, ogle the game's packaging here.

Pitman--This may well be the best game Asmik ever developed or published. Even more impressive: Pitman (Catrap in the West) is one of the best, most interesting titles released for the GameBoy during the system's 14-year reign. If you've never played it, it's an action-puzzler that sports adorable graphics and animation as well as brain-busting gameplay. Bonus: Pitman's box, cartridge and instruction manual are every bit as precious as its in-game visuals.

Shippo de Bun--The good news about Shippo de Bun, which was called Tail 'Gator when it was released in North America: it's yet another top-shelf GameBoy title that is unlike pretty much every other game made for Nintendo's first handheld. The bad news: even loose cartridges go for a pretty penny these days. (Don't even think about buying a complete-in-box copy unless you're a serious collector or you're willing to part with a good amount of money.) So, your best bet, should you want to become acquainted with the single-screen platformer-esque action of Tail 'Gator or Shippo de Bun, is to play it using an emulator. I know that won't be the most appealing option for many of you, but I'd recommend it anyway given the compelling nature of this Natsume GB cart.

Do you have any favorite GameBoy games (Japanese or otherwise)? If so, share your thoughts about them in the comments section of this post.

See also: 'Some of my favorite SNES games in honor of the system's 25th anniversary' and 'Seven ways you can celebrate the 27th anniversary of the PC Engine's release'

Monday, April 17, 2017

I'm never again selling a game system via eBay and here's why

If you've occasionally poked your head into the comments section of this blog or followed me on Twitter for any length of time, you've likely heard me say I never sell consoles or games once they're in my grubby little hands.

Although that isn't far from the truth (for the last decade or so, I've only sold doubles of games or games I really dislike and know I'll never want to play again), I made a few exceptions earlier this year when my husband and I decided to pack up our stuff, sell our home, quit our jobs and travel the country for the next eight to 12 months. (For more on this situation, read this post.)

One exception involved me auctioning off one of my 3DS systems via eBay.

I had five at the time (embarrassing, I know), and I rarely used this particular one, so I figured, "why not sell it to someone who would actually enjoy it?"

Before I continue, I need to say that this 3DS basically was in brand-new condition. I'd only played it a few times and, as such, there were no marks or scratches of any kind on its screen or body. The system's outer box and its contents were similarly pristine.

Anyway, someone recently bought it. Thrilling! I quickly packed it up--protecting it as much as I was able with bubble wrap and the like--and sent it on its way.

Nine days later, I got an email from eBay. The gist of its message: the buyer wanted to return the 3DS and be given a full refund because it wasn't working.

I was stunned. After all, I tested the system immediately before I shipped it and knew nothing at all was wrong with it. Still, I thought I'd be OK. While setting up the eBay auction for this system, I checked the box that informed interested buyers I wouldn't accept returns. Also, like I said earlier, I knew it was in perfect working order when it left my hands.

Note: this isn't the 3DS being discussed in this post
I did wonder if maybe something had happened to the package as it made its way from me to the buyer, but that didn't worry me because I'd paid for insurance (out of my own pocket, I should add) that would come to my rescue in such a case.

After exchanging a few messages with the buyer and doing a bit of research, though, I was back to despairing. First, I found out the package was not damaged during shipment, which meant that insurance I paid for was now all but useless. Second, I discovered that eBay pretty much always backs buyers in this sort of situation--meaning I may well be forced to accept the return and cough up a full refund.

That would've been fine with me if I believed my old 3DS was broken or otherwise made dysfunctional in transit, but I didn't. Instead, I was worried the buyer had done something to damage it and wasn't fessing up. (Which in my mind would mean it's his or her problem, not mine.)

The problem is, I have absolutely no proof the system I sold was in perfect, nearly new condition before I shipped it. Sure, I have photos of it from various angles (a few of which showed both of its screens in action), but even the most recent of them were taken a couple of months ago, just before the auction in question first went live. But I have no video footage that could be used to prove I hadn't knowingly and purposely sold a defective item. (And even if I did have it, would it really help me?)

My main fears: that the buyer had somehow damaged the system and that I was going to have to take it back--leaving me with a broken 3DS that obviously would be of little interest to anyone on eBay or elsewhere.

Thankfully, after hearing more from the buyer, I think it's possible I'll be able to fix the problem he or she is experiencing without too much hassle. Even if that's how the situation plays out, though, there's no way I'm re-listing the system.

Also, I'm now of the mind that I'll almost assuredly never sell a game system through eBay again. Although it seems like this particular buyer isn't trying to pull a fast one on me, what's to stop someone else from doing so down the road?

The fact is, there's nothing stopping someone from doing so in the future. Worse, there's little I could do before or after I list an item to protect myself as its seller from such a scam artist.

So, I'm basically done selling game hardware on eBay. And I may be done selling games (expensive ones, especially) on eBay, too. Which is too bad, as I've never had a bad experience as an eBay seller before now.

Should you follow in my footsteps? That's up to you. I would warn you to do whatever you can to protect yourself from situations like the one I just went through (I'm still going through it, actually, as it's yet to be fully resolved) before you auction off any of your games or consoles, though, especially if they're worth a bit of money.